By Nayak Paudel
Kathmandu, May 18: The Teku-based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital (STIDH) is one of the tertiary health centers providing treatment to the COVID-19 patients. The 100-bed isolation centre at the hospital is full and around two dozen patients are in ICU and ventilator support; it has 23 ICUs and 15 ventilators.
According to the doctors at STIDH, the patients go through anxiety as they see someone in critical condition followed by widespread negative aspects related with COVID-19 and its treatment.
“The COVID-19 patients at our hospital are provided with counseling by the doctors but it is not enough since we need to focus more on their medical treatment,” said Dr. Anup Bastola, chief consultant at STIDH.
Dr. Bastola, who is also the spokesperson for STIDH, informed that he receives a number of phone calls from COVID-19 patients as they seek suggestions relating to the oxygen level, fever and other health issues.
“Since those in home isolation lack medical attention, they are in more dire need of counseling and regular contact from health personnel. They should receive regular counseling or else their mental health will deteriorate and further hamper their health condition,” said Dr. Bastola.
Mental health experts also suggest that there is need of psychological and psychosocial counseling to uplift the mental health condition of the public as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreck havoc.
Similarly, the experts recommend that alongside counseling the government needs to make the public aware of its steps to save the people from pandemic.
“The health institutions are expanding their capacity to treat COVID-19 patients smoothly but the public are unaware due to which they are worrying more; it is what has affected their mental health,” said Dr. Basudev Karki, psychiatrist at Lagankhel-based Mental Hospital.
Supporting what Dr. Bastola said, Dr. Karki also stressed that the government must introduce plans to reach COVID-19 patients at home isolation and provide them counseling and health services until they recover.
More than 100,000 COVID-19 positive patients are in home isolation, around 8,000 are in institutional isolation and about 1,500 are in ICU and ventilator support across the country.
While health institutions at the Valley have been counseling patients to an extent, those outside haven’t been able to provide it properly. Health professionals informed that there was no position for psychiatrist or counselor at most hospitals across the country. However, they have been doing what they can.
Senior police officers of different districts with whom The Rising Nepal talked to also admitted that psychosocial counseling was an important measure to reduce suicide cases.
During the nationwide lockdown in 2020, from March 24 to July 21, 2,218 individuals had committed suicide.
“Deterioration of mental health condition is a loss for the respective individual as well as the country. However, it is highly preventable with proper steps. The government must be serious for once and bring proper action plans and policies regarding mental health,” said Dr. Karki.
Meanwhile, the officials at the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) informed that they were well aware of the situation and are taking steps towards it.
“We have two hotline numbers where people can call if they have any worries or need counseling. Similarly, we are also bringing a package under which one is to provide necessary counseling through radio network to reach the masses,” said Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, MoHP spokesperson.
The MoHP has been operating two call centres – 1115 (from 6 am to 10 pm) and 1133 (24 hours) – for more than a year to provide counseling service regarding COVID-19 prevention and treatment.
Dr. Gautam said that they were looking forward for the local governments, district level administrations and provincial governments to lend support to address the issue well.
–The Rising Nepal